4 Berkshire arts groups get grants to compete in new economy

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BOSTON — Four Berkshire County nonprofit performing arts venues are among 52 statewide to receive money in the first round of Gaming Mitigation grants from Massachusetts Cultural Council.

The four are Barrington Stage, $3,607; Berkshire Theatre Group, $7,196; Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, $67,197; and Williamstown Theatre Festival, $12,080.

Also included in the total $3.34 million package is $250,000 for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The grants are designed to help mitigate the challenges these venues face when competing directly with resort casinos to book touring artists, the council said in statement Thursday.

"While the influx of new gaming revenues into state coffers and the creation of new jobs was anticipated and welcome, many predicted performing arts centers would lose access to acts once they began competing with casinos to attract and book nationally-touring artists," said council Executive Director Anita Walker. "This program was envisioned by the Legislature to protect and preserve the ability of those venues to compete,"

According to council officials, Gaming Mitigation grant funds must be spent on fees paid to touring shows or artists, which can include payments to the show/artist, including bonuses and percentages, and housing and travel costs for the touring show/artist.

While performing arts venues are closed because of COVID-19 precautions, the Cultural Council said this funding will help recipients attract and pay touring artists when it is deemed safe to reopen.

"Investing these gaming revenues into our nonprofit and municipally-owned performing arts centers brings welcome and necessary relief and will help attract touring acts as they prepare to safely reopen and reengage with their audiences in the coming weeks and months," Walker said.

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